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California Briefing / SACRAMENTO

Judges overturn depositions order

September 16, 2008|Michael Rothfeld

A panel of federal judges Monday overturned an order requiring Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his chief of staff to sit for depositions with lawyers for state prisoners, but they said a deputy Cabinet secretary must testify.

The judges ruled that Schwarzenegger and Chief of Staff Susan Kennedy are high-ranking officials who are exempt from depositions except in unusual circumstances that do not exist in this case, in which inmates are seeking to reduce prison overcrowding.

Deputy Cabinet Secretary Robert Gore still must testify because he is "of a significantly lower rank" and can supply information on the governor's policies with respect to prisons, according to U.S. District Judges Thelton Henderson and Lawrence Karlton, and U.S. 9th Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt.

The three judges are scheduled to hold a trial starting in November on whether to cap the state's prison population.

U.S. Magistrate Judge John F. Moulds issued an order Aug. 14 for all three officials to undergo depositions, saying they had personal involvement in prisons issues that justified their testimony.

In asking the federal panel to reconsider, state lawyers called Moulds' decision "unprecedented" and said the depositions would distract the governor and his staff.

-- Michael Rothfeld

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